SEC suspends Trae Elston for Texas game

September, 11, 2012
9/11/12
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On Tuesday, the SEC dealt a big blow to Ole Miss' secondary when it suspended defensive back Trae Elston for Saturday's game against No. 14 Texas.

Commissioner Mike Slive announced that the suspension was due to the hit he put on UTEP receiver Jordan Leslie late in the fourth quarter of last Saturday's 28-10 win that was deemed "flagrant and dangerous." The SEC also said that Elston's hit was in violation of Rule 9-1-4 of the NCAA rulebook, which reads:
"No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, elbow or shoulder."

Rule 9-1-3 also states:
"No player shall target and initiate contact against an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet."

Elston had been a nice spark for the Rebels' defensive backfield and provided Ole Miss with some quality depth during the first two weeks. Now, against their toughest opponent yet, the Rebels will be without one of its most talented youngsters. Texas is only 69th in the nation in passing (averaging 220.5 yards through the first two games), but as far as talent goes, the Longhorns are on a different map compared to the first two teams Ole Miss faced.

It doesn't look like there will be a last-ditch effort to get Elston back, as there will be no appeals process.

"We are disappointed to lose Trae for this weekend, but we are moving forward as a team and focused on Texas," coach Hugh Freeze said in a statement.

Now, there will be a lot of debate going forward as to whether the hit was worthy of suspension. For starters, Elston wasn't flagged for the hit. It was clean in the eyes of the refs, though Leslie was on the ground for a few minutes before he got up.

On video, you can see that Leslie was bracing himself for the hit. He even pulled up short of making the catch at the goal line because he knew he was about to get laid out by Elston, who clearly wasn't interested in getting to the ball. He was looking to hit Leslie, but if Elston pulls up short and Leslie catches the ball, then people are scolding him for not making a play and allowing a score.

If Leslie catches the ball and Elston still hits him, is there still a suspension?

I understand that the league -- and the sport -- is trying to protect defenseless players. And in the wake of the head-to-head collision that caused Tulane safety Devon Walker to suffer a major spinal cord injury, it's no surprise that the SEC wants to make a statement about players leading with their heads. It's a major safety issue in this sport.

But consider Vanderbilt cornerback Andre Hal's hit on South Carolina tight end Justice Cunningham. He was hit so hard by Hal that his helmet shot off. Hal was flagged for hitting a defenseless player above the shoulders, but there was no suspension.

Elston led with both his head and his shoulders, but his hit appeared to come below Leslie's head and his helmet hit after his shoulders. My only thought for why Elston was suspended and not Hal is because Leslie backed off of going for the ball at the last second. If he catches it and then takes the shot, I don't think we hear anything about it.

I'm just not sure the punishment fits the crime. The fact that his helmet comes into the hit after his shoulders makes it a tough call. Was Leslie defenseless? Yes, but so was Cunningham.

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